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  • Writer's pictureLeah Jewett

Real-life sex-ed lessons from the Sex Education stars

Updated: Sep 17, 2021

Poster for Netflix show Sex Education with Gillian Anderson and Asa Butterfield up close
Lots to learn: a botanical-themed Sex Education season 3 poster (tagline: “Growth is a group project”). Image: Netflix

The ground-breaking, breathtakingly good Netflix show Sex Education is a crash course on how hard it is for parents to talk openly and honestly with their children about sex-ed topics.

Sexually active and forthright, the fierce, no-filter sex therapist Jean Milburn (played by Gillian Anderson) talks about masturbation over breakfast.

Self-conscious and uptight, her reticent 16-year-old son Otis (Asa Butterfield), like a typical teen, doesn’t want to know.

In real life Butterfield’s mother is a psychologist – “There are some similarities with Gillian’s character,” he says, “but she doesn’t pry as much.”

And although Anderson says about talking openly at home: “It's universally awkward no matter who you’re talking to, even if your mother is a sex therapist” she has learned a thing or two from the upfront character she plays.

So what does the Sex Education cast say about talking with their families about sex-ed topics? Here’s a round-up of our favourite quotes on how art mirrors their real lives at home

GILLIAN ANDERSON (unboundaried Jean Milburn)

On communicating

“Sex Education deals with very, very challenging issues that teenagers and families go through. So much of it is about communication.

My characte